S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
In a curious turn of events, the short story following The Final Problem (last post’s review!) is yet another I never read. It is, however, not surprising that it is the story that should immediately follow the death of Mr. Sherlock Holmes: the triumphant return of said detective. And it is either a very enjoyable short story, or my holiday sickness fading away is causing me to rather enjoy myself. Either way, let us revisit this tale, eh?
It is titled The Empty House, and, most appropriately, half of it takes place in an empty house. It begins with Watson talking about how he remembers his friend, how he attempts to apply Holmes’ methods to cases that pop up now and again in the headlines with “indifferent” success. There is a current case that he wishes Holmes could help solve, as it is strange indeed. But as Holmes cannot do so, Watson satisfies these thoughts by visiting the home himself. While there, he bumps into a grumpy book collector who quickly leaves, but thinks nothing of it.
Naturally, Watson is visited by this man, as he’s come to apologize for his behavior, only, when Watson turns his back on him for a moment, he turns back around to come face to face with Sherlock Holmes. Normally not one to do such a thing, Watson faints at the shock. When he is revived, they discuss the events that truly unfolded at the Reichenbach falls, that Holmes realized what he could accomplish if the world thought him dead. Only Moriarty’s confederates knew otherwise, as one had witnessed Holmes’ escape. “The second-most dangerous man in London”, according to Holmes.
Well, Holmes invites Watson to help him once more, and they set out on the adventure of the empty house–and it really is an empty house. It’s across from Baker Street, where one can see the visage of a Holmes decoy set up. Holmes wishes to catch this dangerous man tonight. But the man is delayed, and Holmes gets restless, until at midnight, the man doesn’t appear on the street below–rather, he comes into the empty house himself, sets up his gun, and shoots! Holmes and Watson overtake him, call the police that were hidden on the street (we even get a nice moment with Inspector Lestrade), and all is well. Holmes explains to Lestrade that this man, Moran, was the guilty party in the curious case that had drawn Watson’s earlier attentions and to leave the attempt on Holmes’ life out of it, giving Lestrade all the credit to solving the other case. The men return to Baker Street to discuss the matter as usual, with Holmes only surprised that Moran had decided to set up his gun from the empty house instead of the street.
On that singular point, I admit to being confused. Guns naturally work better when you have a clear shot, and Moran would not have had a very good angle from the street up to the floor (am I mistaken in remembering it as the first floor (second to Americans)? Seems like The Baker Street building was only a ground floor and first floor, but I could very well be mistaken. Anyway, an unoccupied home right across the street with a level view of Holmes’ window would naturally be the ideal spot. Holmes went on at length about how skilled a hunter this man is, it seems to me that any impatience and desire to instantly kill Holmes would still have the man looking for a good angle. But that would just make for a boring story, I suppose, as the suspense of the wait for Moran as well as his entry into the empty house is a great part of the tale! Next is The Dancing Men, a tale I know well and enjoy a lot. Cheers~
Interested in The Empty House? It can be purchased here.